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Tony Kushner's Play, Angels In America

1313 words - 6 pages

Tony Kushner’s play, Angels in America, comments on a number of social issues of its time; ranging from political to societal. Additionally, it incorporates many concepts discussed in the Modern Condition courses. Thinkers such as Nietzsche, Borges, and DeBeauvoir are specifically represented in the play through the characters presented. Kushner uses his characters to convey the ideas of these thinkers in the context of the culture the play takes place in.
Nietzsche’s ideas are most clearly reflected in Roy Cohn: a power driven, “heterosexual” lawyer, “who fucks around with guys” (Kushner 52). Nietzsche’s writings emphasize mankind’s natural desire to gain power. This desire serves as a driving force behind all of man’s actions. Nietzsche also asserted that traditional morality was an institution established to curb society’s scramble for power. Due to this belief, Nietzsche claimed man must cast aside traditional morality, as it is serves as a roadblock, in order to be more successful in his quest for power. The superman was a concept he introduced, meaning a type of man who is able to access great power as a result of releasing himself from social restraints. This was the ultimate form of mankind, and only is possible when he releases moral obligation and restraint completely, and it can be argued that Roy Cohn is Kushner’s superman.
Roy Cohn’s embodiment of Nietzsche’s concepts is perfectly depicted by scene nine of act one, where Roy is told he has AIDS. Upon hearing the news, Roy immediately begins intimidating the doctor. He keeps asking him to accuse him of being a homosexual, and once the doctor finally states that Roy has sex with men, Roy retaliates with a speech on how he is hung up on terms. Roy states that, “Homosexuals are men who know nobody and who nobody knows,” while he on the other hand has “clout,” and is therefore unable to be considered a homosexual (51). He speech reasserts the fact that he can end the doctor’s career if word gets out that he has AIDS. He demonstrates his power in this scene by not only controlling the doctor, but also displaying his abilities and connections to people like the President’s wife. His description as a ruthless lawyer, and due to his request for Joe to accept the position in Washington to ensure Roy has friends in the right places when it comes to the hearing about his disbarment, it can be assumed that he has no qualms about compromising general moral principals in order to get what he wants. He even imagines himself manipulating his hallucination of Ethel Rosenberg, the woman he practically sent to her death. He tricks his hallucination into thinking he was remorseful and manipulated her emotions, only to scream, “I fooled you Ethel. . . I WIN” (247). The implication of this scene is that he would be willing to manipulate a woman he was responsible for the death of just to get her to do what he wants. Roy’s abandonment of morality, and his depiction as a powerful man, makes him a fine...

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